Following residencies in cities like Sao Paulo, New York City, Tokyo, Johannesburg, and Berlin, Red Bull Music Fest has announced it will set up shop in Chicago for the month of November, with a lineup heavy on hip-hop, electronic, jazz, and experimental music. True to form, the monthlong curation of talks and performances will spotlight its host city’s musical legacies, current influencers, and underground scenes with events featuring artists like Vic Mensa, Cupcakke, Jamila Woods, producer No I.D., and Chicago house veteran Robert Williams, as well as shows devoted to LGBTQ-focused label Futurehood and a mini-festival showcasing Latinx artists.
Some of the biggest names belong to the opening G.O.O.D. Music event at Wintrust Arena, featuring Nas, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, Valee, Desiigner, 070 Shake, and more. On the heavier end, Japanese noise artist Merzbow and Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley headline an experimental show billed as a “mind-altering, multi-sensory assault.”
See the schedule and read the festival lineup in full detail below.
Red Bull Music Festival Chicago 2018
Saturday, November 3: G.O.O.D. MUSIC CHICAGO @ Wintrust Arena with Nas, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, Valee, Desiigner, 070 Shake and More
Founded by Kanye West in 2004, G.O.O.D. Music has been an imposing presence in rap and R&B for over a decade. With scores of platinum-selling and Grammy-nominated records behind them, they have played a significant role in shaping the sound of contemporary urban music. Today, they continue to discover and develop innovative new talent. For one night only, G.O.O.D. Music will take over Chicago’s Wintrust Arena, bringing together artists from their diverse, influential roster for a rare ensemble show. With performances from label president and sharp-witted lyricist Pusha T, as well as breakout R&B star Teyana Taylor and recent signees like the increasingly-imitated Chicago rapper Valee and entrancing New Jersey songstress 070 Shake, the show will celebrate the label’s legacy and its promising future. You may never see all of these artists on the same bill ever again.
Monday, November 5: RED BULL RADIO LIVE: PEAK TIME @ Smartbar ft. Vivian Host with Special Guests DJ Heather, Noncompliant, Eris Drew
Red Bull Radio’s Peak Time is your daily guide to modern music, with breaking news, in-depth artist interviews, cultural commentary, the best new tracks, and much more. Each weekday, music journalist and DJ Vivian Host leads listeners through two hours of contemporary music. With a critic’s penetrating insight and a fan’s unbridled enthusiasm, she investigates and examines the stories shaping the mainstream and underground alike. Usually broadcast from Red Bull Radio’s New York studios, this edition of Peak Time will take place live in Chicago with special guests DJ Heather, Noncompliant, and Eris Drew. Together, Host and her guests will explore the often overlooked impact of women and non-binary persons on the history of U.S. and Midwestern dance music.
Thursday, November 8: VIC MENSA @ Saffron Rails
Raised in the South Side neighborhood of Hyde Park, Vic Mensa distinguished himself as one of the most important voices to emerge from the new wave of nationally recognized Chicago rappers in the 2010s. After a brief stint with rock-rap group Kids These Days, he garnered acclaim for the incisive, deftly-delivered lyrics on breakout 2013 project, INNANETAPE, and his work with fellow ascendant SaveMoney crew member Chance the Rapper. Following his signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Mensa has continued to focus on his community. Recently, Mensa launched SaveMoneySaveLife, a charitable foundation that seeks to combat systemic racism and provide aid to impoverished communities by funding several Chicago-based programs. For one night only, Mensa will take over Saffron Rails, a raw industrial space in Goose Island, for a bold, unprecedented live show that will reaffirm his impact on his hometown and rap fans everywhere.
Friday, November 9: DRONE ACTIVITY @ Saffron Rails with Merzbow, Stephen O’Malley, Olivia Block, ONO, Thoom, TALsounds, Quicksails, Bruce Lamont, Matchess, Carol Genetti, HOGG, Rebecca Valeriano-Flores, Fire-Toolz, Katherine Young
Drone Activity Chicago is a three-stage event featuring the most progressive artists working in noise, drone, and experimental music. Taking place in Saffron Rails - a massive industrial space - this concert is for those who want to feel music rattle every inch of their bodies. Headlined by revered Japanese noise musician Merzbow ad Sunn O)))‘s Stephen O’Malley, the event will also showcase Chicago’s most extreme independent artists. The aggressive, breakneck post-punk of Negative Scanner’s Rebecca Valeriano-Flores will play alongside the dark electronic scores of Olivia Block, the punishing industrial club music of Thoom, the distorted experimental rock of veteran Chicago band ONO, and more. Echoing from an arena-level sound system, their ear-splitting music will score eerie, dynamic light shows. Attendees should brace themselves for a mind-altering, multi-sensory assault.
Saturday, November 10: CupcakKe @ Thalia Hall with DJ Funk and DJ King Marie
On “CPR,” CupcakKe calls herself “the most explicit.” This is not hyperbole. The 21-year-old Chicago native has dozens of freaky, hilarious songs and videos that make tracks from ghetto house pioneer DJ Funk sound tame by comparison. Over beats that run the gamut from grim drill to bouncy hip-house, she exuberantly delivers one unabashedly vulgar lyric after another. In addition to penning sex-positive rhymes for heterosexual women, CupcakKe is a vocal ally for the LGBT community and often moves beyond the carnal in her music, addressing everything from police brutality to the import of black femininity and body positivity. In a special performance at Thalia Hall, the landmark venue initially designed as an opera house, CupcakKe will showcase her catalog of sexually liberated and socially conscious bangers.
Sunday, November 11: XICAGO @ Saffron Rails with Pachanga, Future Rootz, Boy Jeanius, ¡ESSO! Afrojam Funkbeat, Tatiana Hazel, Navarro, Dos Santos, Kaina, Victor!. Dave Mata b2b Daniel Villarreal-Carillo
Xicago is a two-stage mini-festival celebrating Chicago’s vibrant Latinx musiccommunity. Headlining DJ crew Pachanga will play the greatest hits from its infamous club night. Other performers include modern R&B chanteuse Kaina; singer/songwriter/producer Tatiana Hazel, who crafts dreamy, bilingual pop; politically-conscious rapper Navarro; DJ Boi Jeanius, who’s played his latin-influenced, partying rocking around the world; and jazz quintet Dos Santos, who infuse their music with everything from cumbia to punk. Expect to dance from beginning to end.
Monday, November 12: RED BULL RADIO LIVE: PEAK TIME @ Young Chicago Authorsft. Vivian Host with Special Guests Numero Group, Luis Alberto Urrea + more
Red Bull Radio’s Peak Time is your daily guide to modern music, with breaking news, in-depth artist interviews, cultural commentary, the best new tracks, and much more. Each weekday, music journalist and DJ Vivian Host leads listeners through two hours of contemporary music. With a critic’s penetrating insight and a fan’s unbridled enthusiasm, she investigates and examines the stories shaping the mainstream and underground alike. Usually broadcast from Red Bull Radio’s New York studios, this special edition of Peak Time will take place live in Chicago at Young Chicago Authors, a space dedicated to the voices of young people who face violence and segregation on a daily basis, a safe place that provides a platform for youth expression and celebrates the narratives of teens from every corner of the city.First, Host will sit down with Rob Sevier to discuss the history and ever-growing catalog of Numero Group, the record label under which he and co-founder Ken Shipley have repressed hundreds of overlooked and obscure recordings in soul, rock, and more. To close the show, Host will interview the award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer Luis Alberto Urrea about his work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, his 2018 novel The House of Broken Angels, and the musicthat’s soundtracked his extraordinary life.
Thursday, November 15: BLACK MONUMENT ENSEMBLE: WHERE FUTURE UNFOLDS - FLOWERS FOR CHICAGO @ Garfield Park Conservancy
For one night only at Garfield Park Conservatory, the Black Monument Ensemble will perform their singular, multi-sensory show, Where Future Unfolds - Flowers For Chicago. An 80-minute musical and visual odyssey that investigates the circularity of history, the show is inspired by the church-rooted black activism of the ‘60s/’70s. The brainchild of visionary Chicago-based artist, educator, vocalist/musician, and DJ Damon Locks, the Black Monument Ensemble formed to address today’s pressing civil rights issues through art. In addition to singing, the Black Monument Ensemble utilizes samples and drum machines alongside their vocals and percussion. Throughout the show the Ensemble will project Locks’ riveting visuals in concert with the music. In our politically fraught times, Where Future Unfolds offers an escape from the present and begins the work for the hurdles ahead.
Monday, November 19: RED BULL RADIO LIVE: INTERDIMENSIONAL TRANSMISSION@ Smartbar, Hosted by BMG & Erika with Special Guests Robert Williams, Ron Trent, Greg Collier
Interdimensional Transmissions is a biweekly radio show from the minds and crates of electronic musicians, DJs, and dance music scholars BMG and Erika. Usually broadcast from Detroit, this special three-part edition of Interdimensional Transmissions will take place inside Chicago dance music bastion Smartbar. BMG and Erika will interview Robert Williams, the former New York truancy officer who busted Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles before taking them under his wing. After talking to Williams about New York, his move to Chicago, and opening Warehouse, they will be joined by Ron Trent, who will help tell the story of the Muzic Box, the near-mythic club Williams opened in the ‘80s that launched the short but profoundly influential career of DJ Ron Hardy. In the final segment, Greg Collier, the brother of the late Ken Collier but a key figure in Detroit dance music in his own right, will discuss the primacy of the scene Williams helped craft in molding the Motor City’s major contributions to dance music. This is a rare opportunity to learn about one of the wilder footnotes in dance music history, straight from the source.
Tuesday, November 20: A CONVERSATION WITH NO I.D. @ Chicago History Museum, Moderated by Andrew Barber
A pivotal figure in the ‘90s Chicago rap scene, producer No I.D. weathered the record industry’s once fickle relationship with the city and became one of its most renowned expats. After producing the bulk of Common’s early output, including the jazz-inflected classic “I Used to Love H.E.R,” No I.D. crafted beats for artists like Jay-Z, Nas, and Big Sean. Since then, he’s taken his homegrown tastes to the boardroom. Once the president of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, he went on to become one of the top A&R’s at Def Jam and founded ARTium Recordings. Today, when not working as the executive vice president at Capitol Music Group, he still produces for premiere talents like Chicago native Vic Mensa. During this in-depth conversation with Andrew Barber, the owner/creator of celebrated Chicago-based music blog and media company Fake Shore Drive, No I.D. will discuss the stories behind some of his biggest records, how he successfully moves between the studio and the office, and much more.
Friday, November 23: FUTUREHOOD & FRIENDS @ Subterranean with Mister Wallace, KC Ortiz, The Vixen, Kidd Kenn, Roy Kinsey, Blu Bone, aCeb00mbaP, TRQPiTECA, Hijo Pródijo, Rae Chardonnay
From blues to house to hip-hop, Chicago has always been at the forefront of progressive, socially liberating music. Today, the city is home to a rapidly growing underground community of LGBTQ rappers, DJs, and singers. Spearheaded by rapper Mister Wallace and rapper/DJ/producer Anthony “aCeb00mbaP” Pabey’s burgeoning Chicago-based, LGBTQ-centric record label Futurehood, artists from the scene have received local and national acclaim. For one night only at Wicker Park venue Subterranean, Mister Wallace and rising Futurehood artists like Chicago-based rappers Roy Kinsey and KC Ortiz will join several forward-thinking compatriots to showcase the diversity and fierce dynamism of this homegrown movement.
Sunday, November 25: LAST NIGHT A DJ SAVED MY SOUL @ Thalia Hall with Farley Jackmaster Funk, DJ Pierre, Byron Stingily, Ann Nesby, Mark S. Hubbard and The Voices, Katrina Alston, Edward ‘Getdown’ Crosby
If the secular and non-secular can agree on one thing, it’s that music can be a means of salvation. From disco to house and beyond, there’s a rich history of artists incorporating gospel music into their work. Last Night A DJ Saved My Soulbrings together artists saving souls on and off the dancefloor through a unique synthesis of transcendent music and transportive messages. Held at Thalia Hall, this is an all-day, all-ages, gospel house party featuring famed house singer Brian Stingy and gospel choir Mark Hubbard and the Voices. The headliners are DJs who approach their sets with the same zeal as a preacher in the pulpit, including Chicago house legend Farley Jackmaster Funk, who holds a doctorate in Ministry and Biblical Theology, and acid house originator and born-again Christian DJ Pierre. On this day, dance music fans of all faiths will celebrate the sanctity of the dancefloor.
Monday, November 26: RED BULL RADIO LIVE: PEAK TIME @ Lincoln Hall ft. Vivian Host with Special Guests Won Kim, Diana Dávila, Brian Case + more
Red Bull Radio’s Peak Time is your daily guide to modern music, with breaking news, in-depth artist interviews, cultural commentary, the best new tracks, and much more. Each weekday, music journalist and DJ Vivian Host leads listeners through two hours of contemporary music. With a critic’s penetrating insight and a fan’s unbridled enthusiasm, she investigates and examines the stories shaping the mainstream and underground alike. Usually broadcast from Red Bull Radio’s New York studios, this special edition of Peak Time will take place live in Chicago. Joined by some of Chicago’s most dynamic restaurateurs and chefs, Vivian Host will examine the overlap amongst Chicago’s music and culinary scenes.
Thu, Nov 29: MAKAYA MCCRAVEN @ Chicago Park District - South Shore Cultural Center - Paul Robeson Theater with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Jeff Parker, Junius Paul, Carlos Niño, Joel Ross, Dezron Douglas, Brandee Younger, Josh Johnson, Nubya Garcia and Ayana Contreras (DJ Set)
Makaya McCraven is an accomplished jazz composer and drummer. Born in Paris, he developed his unique hybrid of jazz and hip-hop at UMASS Amherst before moving to Chicago and embedding himself in the local music scene, releasing several critically-acclaimed albums, and touring his genre-defying music around the world. For his 2018 album Universal Beings, McCraven traveled to Chicago, London, New York, and Los Angeles to record days of jam sessions with musicians from each locale. He then pieced together portions of each session to create a collection of brilliantly smooth and sometimes muted suites that erase any division between jazz and hip-hop.
At the Paul Robeson Theatre inside Chicago’s historic South Shore Cultural Center, McCraven will take the stage with a 11-piece ensemble featuring players from the Universal Beings sessions. Amongst them are Brainfeeder’s renowned multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (LA), who will be writing the arrangements for this performance, as well as Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker (LA), and harpist Brandee Younger (NYC). Playing together for the first time, McCraven and his diverse ensemble will showcase music’s enduring universality.
Friday, November 30: JAMILA WOODS’ HEAVN HERE @ Harold Washington Cultural Center
Jamila Woods is a vocalist, Pushcart-Prize-winning poet, and the Associate Artistic Director of the non-profit youth organization Young Chicago Authors, where she is a founding member of Young Chicago Author’s Teaching Artist Corps. Born and raised in the South Side of Chicago, Woods poured her life and poetry into the soulful, genre-blending songs of love and protest of her solo debut HEAVN, which received “Best New Music” from Pitchfork.
For her final performance of HEAVN, Woods will take the stage at the Harold Washington Cultural Center Performing Arts Theatre. Accompanied by strings, a choir, a DJ, poets, dancers, and visual artists, Woods believes this performance will encapsulate the album’s thoughts, emotions, and sounds better than any other. It will also encompass the broad spectrum of incredible art emanating from Chicago, proving that, no matter the obstacles, you can create your heaven in your community.